Whatever Happened to Old Fashioned Respect?

Since I began blogging as a ministry tool, I have felt that my subjects for readers should be about the missions and ministries of Alabama Baptists and Southern Baptists. That has been the motivating philosophy behind my modest endeavors in this sphere of influence. As a result, I have NOT sought to set forth a personal political agenda, nor have I tried to become a social commentator on the secular trends in our society. There are far better thinkers and writers than I who can do this kind of work. However, I have a concern burning in my soul about the apparent loss of old fashioned respect in our culture. Granted, I may be voicing a generational or even a Southern bias in offering this perspective, but here goes.

Recently, controversial California pastor Wiley Drake made some unimaginably unwise comments about President Obama on a network radio talk show. Now, I realize that Bro. Drake is a shoot-from-the-hip kind of fellow, and I also know personally that statements can be taken out of context and sound worse than intended, but his comments have been verified by Baptist Press and Fox News.
What did he say? I don’t want to repeat his viewpoint in verbatim form. I ask you to go to Baptist Press or Fox News radio archives for the actual statements. Bro. Drake in essence called for imprecatory prayers against the well being of the president as a means of expressing his political opinion about Mr. Obama.

Don’t get me wrong, the president has espoused views with which I strongly disagree. His political perspective does not reflect mine in some major ways. However, as a Christian, I am to respect him and pray for him. Bro. Drake needs to read Paul’s admonitions concerning praying for those in authority. Further, he should think about his Christian witness and those he seems to want to represent in the SBC family.

In the last several months, I have traveled abroad to Ukraine and the United Kingdom. In both places, people asked me personally and in public venues what I thought about President Obama. My responses have always been predicated with a respectful appreciation for the office by saying, “As an American citizen, traveling abroad and living and traveling in my own country, I want you to know that I pray for my president.” I have spoken kindly about Mr. Obama’s dedication to his family and my concern for his well being. I was utterly amazed to come home and hear the horrific comments of Bro. Drake. I will be praying for him as a brother. My prayer is that Wiley Drake will come to see that such outlandish statements are not only wrong, but such words hurt the cause of Christ.

Recently I’ve noticed other illustrations of disrespect from our culture. David Letterman’s inappropriate attempts of making a joke at the expense of Sarah Palin’s family is so disrespectful that I can barely contain myself as I write about what he said. Again, I will not repeat them verbatim. Doubtless, you have heard them for yourself. David Letterman and his writing team need a real wakeup call concerning decency and respect for the young and impressionable among us. I know he is in a ratings war with Conan O’Brien, but how far will someone stoop just to get a point ahead of his competitors? I don’t watch Letterman, and I won’t criticize those who do. However, this man needs to learn from this huge mistake and pledge never to jump across that line of disrespect again — I mean never!!!

In South Carolina, Rusty DePass, former Richland County GOP chairman, misused his Facebook page when he made unflattering remarks about Michelle Obama after hearing a news report that a gorilla had escaped from the zoo in Columbia, S.C. After the Republican activist’s comment was exposed by a blogger, DePass quickly deleted his Facebook page, but the ensuing controversy led to DePass issuing an apology to Mrs. Obama and resigning his job as a real estate broker. This incident should remind us about stewardship of language. One slip of the tongue, pen or keyboard can wound others and damage our own reputations. We should embrace a more Hebraic view of words that recognizes that words spoken can’t be taken back. (For a biblical illustration of that truism, see Genesis 27 when Isaac spoke a blessing to Jacob thinking it was Esau.)

Senator John Ensign of Nevada has admitted that he failed to honor his vows of marriage. Standing before the microphones addressing the media and the nation, he called it the worst mistake of his life. This is not the first time that someone of a high profile who has been in a lofty position of leadership has had to admit such a failure, and for certain it will not be the last. For John Ensign, his plans for a bright political future have been dimmed by a lapse of respect for his marriage vows. Again, this is another sad example of a loss of old fashioned respect for fidelity in marriage. As is true for all experience such failures in life, Senator Ensign can learn from this experience and so can all of us. We need to regain a sense of old fashioned respect for the institution of marriage.

The last illustration may appear to some as the weakest one. To me, however, it is a big issue. Forgive me if I offend anyone for feeling that Senator Barbara Boxer crossed the line of respect into disrespect recently. The senator was hearing the testimony of a brigadier general concerning the military situation in the hotspots of the world. The general referred to her as “ma’am” in a response, perhaps several of them. This annoyed the senator from California, and she then said in a real snippy fashion, “General, I wish you would call me senator and not ma’am. I worked hard to earn this title.”

Indeed Senator Boxer has worked hard for her job, and I realize that she is proud of her accomplishments. I do not want to assume that the title of senator should be demeaned in any way. Yet my father, a World War II veteran, always taught me to refer to ladies, younger and older, with the deferential terms “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am.” This has been embedded in my DNA since my childhood. In the military culture, anyone who is a superior is addressed with the deferential expressions “Yes, sir” and “No, sir” for the males and “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am” for the females. In other words, the general was being respectful of the senator, even though he did not use her title. In my opinion, the senator was being disrespectful to the general. More than likely, the general had used the expressions “Yes, sir” and “No, sir” as he addressed the male senators. I do not know that for certain, because the sound bite was so brief.

Well, I warned you that this blog was different. I will not stray much from the course of focusing my comments on missions and ministries in the future. But, please help our culture to regain some respect for old fashioned respect of others. Wiley Drake, David Letterman, Rusty DePass, Senator Ensign and Senator Boxer are not the only ones who cross the line; we do too. Every time we express road rage or fail to exercise common decency, we lose that perspective of old fashioned respect.

Executive Director of Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions

State Missionary Rick Lance was elected in June of 1998 to serve as executive director of the State Board of Missions and treasurer of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Rick leads state missions efforts and facilitates Great Commission Ministries for the Convention’s 3,200+ churches and more than one million Alabama Baptists.

Rick and his wife, Pam, are members at First Baptist Church, Montgomery. They have two daughters.

Any requests for Rick Lance to speak in or visit your church should be directed to Billie Davis at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 253 or (334) 613-2253, [email protected]

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